Expert advice and referrals helps business grow in the right direction
October 29, 2014— Vancouver, British Columbia
It started with a simple question from a client: "How do we get our technology out of the lab and into the greenhouse?" Dr. Saber Miresmailli, Founder and CEO of Ecoation Innovative Solutions, was looking for answers and contacted the Government of Canada’s Concierge Service for advice and guidance. The bilingual Concierge Service is delivered by the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) in collaboration with federal and provincial partners.
"We were looking for funding and partnership opportunities that would help us take our technology further, but we really didn’t know where to start," he says. "We had heard of the Government’s new Concierge Service and decided to give it a shot and see what doors it might open." They were pleasantly surprised.
Protecting crops with new technology
The Vancouver, British Columbia-based company has developed a remarkable system that changes the way farmers produce and protect their crops. Their crop monitoring system seeks to identify the pest or disease threatening a particular crop through continuous monitoring and collecting various types of data about the plants’ health.
For greenhouse operators, pest management is a constant concern. The current pest control practice involves human scouts who must manually inspect each individual plant, which could take anywhere from six to ten weeks in a ten-acre greenhouse.
Ecoation’s system can complete this inspection in as little as two days with technology that allows them to analyze a specific set of plant-driven signals. Using a perfectly healthy plant as a baseline measurement, their system is able to monitor and quickly identify signal deviations in unhealthy plants. This enables growers to detect issues in their crops at an early stage before symptoms become visible to the naked eye. It also gives them the ability to remove an infected plant before it has a chance to spread and infect other plants.
Growing from lab to greenhouse
With their technology thriving and business operations gaining momentum, Ecoation knew they needed help advancing to the next level. They had previously obtained close to $100,000 from NSERC Engage grants and NRC-IRAP funding, but they needed more help to move their technology from the lab to the greenhouse. They contacted the Concierge Service and were directed to Vancouver Concierge Advisor Robert McGarry, who quickly assessed Ecoations’ business goals and immediately identified the most appropriate resources and programs targeted to their specific needs. His advice did more than just identify the right programs – it also facilitated access to the programs through referrals, guiding the business directly to the people who could help.
One referral in particular hit the mark. McGarry introduced Ecoation to the Investment Agriculture Foundation of British Columbia (IAFBC), which invests federal and provincial funds in support of innovative projects that benefit the agri-food industry in BC. As a result, Ecoation applied for funding and was awarded over $207,000 to help advance their innovation.
"One single meeting turned into more than $200,000 in funding, which is pretty remarkable. We didn’t even know this program existed, let alone that we were eligible to receive this kind of funding," says Miresmailli. "Our Concierge Advisor was instrumental in connecting us with the right programs that could help us grow, and we would not have been successful in obtaining this funding without his guidance."
Reflecting on their innovation journey so far, Miresmailli says that what he admires most about the Canadian innovation landscape is not only the wide range and programs and services made available to businesses, but also the opportunity to collaborate and connect with those who can make a difference.
"This can change the course of action for so many small businesses looking to grow and expand," says Miresmailli. "A year ago, I was just an academic with an idea. And now, thanks to the support I’ve received from government programs like the Concierge Service, we are moving forward with bringing our technology to market, and the future looks bright!"
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